HEALTH PROMOTION French actor born to Casablancan parents, Hicham Nazzal has agreed to lend his face to the latest Association for the Fight Against AIDS campaign with his message, “Would I have become an actor if I were HIV positive?”
Made in Casablanca: This is the campaign of its type in the Arab world. The fight against AIDS doesn’t seem to be a priority. What do you think?Hicham Nazzal: The leadership team at ALCS Maroc shared their campaign ideas with me a year ago, based on the model launched in France by the Aides association with Johnny Hallyday and Claire Chazal using the slogan, “If I were HIV positive”. The Moroccan celebrities that they approached could then relay a message of tolerance and support towards those living with HIV/AIDS. I was aware of this association’s extraordinary work of bringing this health issue to the public. I compare the perception of AIDS in Morocco today to the perception that people in northern countries had when the epidemic began: a marginal illness. But the sad reality is that those not considered “at risk” saw the number of infections explode. And, screening is not widespread.
This campaign aims to, and it’s just the first necessary step to move forward, break the taboo. To change the reaction of people when they say the word AIDS in Morocco, among friends, family, between colleagues, and with his/her partner, without judgment, but rather with truth. That would be a big victory.
What Morocco achieves with this campaign is a big step that needs to be recognized and encouraged. We could say that other priorities like the fight against illiteracy or unemployment are more pressing priorities. I don’t think that we should place values on the battles to fight.
The future of our youth is at stake. A local Sidaction chapter has made an appearance on Moroccan television for some time now (hosted by Ali Bddou, and also part of the campaign).
As personalities rally together today to change the prejudices, it’s a great step forward.
Made in Casablanca: In your opinion, is it a duty to participate as an artist?Hicham Nazzal: Many celebrities refused to be associated with this campaign and it’s not my place to comment on their decisions. I prefer to salute the courage of my collegues who knew that by participating in this campaign they are confronting an urgent need. I believe in the value of leading by example. And I am optimistic by nature. I hope that a public health policy will emerge in Morocco to facilitate access to screening and intensify it, but also to allow the infected to benefit from adequate treatment, to conduct real campaigns about protecting oneself, in schools, in the cities as well as the villages. We say the Morocco is modern, today it has the opportunity to take on a historic responsibility. We can’t pass on to future generations, our youth, a future burdened by this dirty virus. And I am proud to be one of the first Moroccan artists to convey this message.
Made in Casablanca: Your family is originally from Casablanca, but you grew up and worked in France. What’s your relationship like with the city today?
Hicham Nazzal: In fact most of my family is originally from Casablanca, and I was born in France, studied and worked on numerous films in France, so Casa has always had a spot in my heart, I try to get back as often as possible. I compare the city to what’s possible, the richness of its youth and its strong desire to act. Its location by the ocean gives it a wave of nostalgia and melancholy that echos with me. When I was hosting a program for 2M and while filming the full-length film La Grand Villa by Latif Lahlou for a year and half, I loved to decompress by exploring new places, incognito. During my last visit to Casablanca, in addition to spending a lot of family time, I really appreciated meeting my friends at the Hyatt Regency’s Six PM, with it deep lounge music at the beginning of the evening, a discrete and pleasant clientele. And today, I know that I can count on Made in Casablanca to point me in the right direction on the latest places to discover.
Made in Casablanca: After your last film La Grande Villa by Latif Lahlou, what are you working on now?
Hicham Nazzal: I am featured in a very beautiful Swiss-Canadian comedy entitled Operation Casablanca, which hit cinemas across Morocco on April 6, including Megarama in Casablanca. The casting is prestigious and international for a film already praised by festivals worldwide. I play Youssef, in Arab and French, and we filmed largely in Geneva and Zurich. At the same time, I’m developing televsion programs with the great team at a French production agency, Media TV. We just signed a great contract with NRJ. Springtime is looking up, thank you life!
For more information about ALCS, AIDS prevention or more information about the fight against AIDS, visit alcsmaroc.ma/public or call Info Sida at 0801 00 25 25
Interview: Mathias Chaillot
Photo: DR - ALCSTranslation: Mandy Sinclair